Several reasons for huge voter turnout
In a record turnout for a mid-term election, educated suburban voters combined with Connecticut’s cities to create the blue wave that drowned Republican dreams of regaining a piece or two of state government, and put Democrats in solid control for at least the next two years.
While Republican Bob Stefanowski won solid support in rural areas and blue-collar regions including the Naugatuck Valley, support for Democrat Ned Lamont emerged in formerly rock-ribbed GOP territory, including the heart of Connecticut’s Gold Coast in wealthy enclaves like Greenwich and Wilton, where veteran state Sens. L. Scott Frantz and Toni Boucher, were the high-profile face of losing Republicans.
The economy was the biggest issue on the minds of Connecticut voters, and was by far the most talked about concern on the campaign trail. But experts suggest that at the very least, it was opposition to President Donald Trump that ultimately drew record turnout in Connecticut that led to Lamont’s victory.
“The pushback against the Trump administration played a role,” said Gayle Alberda, political science professor at Fairfield University. “People being really upset about the stuff that was happening at the White House and coming out to vote because of that.”
Alberda said there was an indication the blue wave would occur because of the surge of new voters who registered in Connecticut since the 2016 election, a trend that ultimately tipped the scales in Lamont’s favor. Scott McLean, a professor of political science at Quinnipiac University agreed, stressing that he thought the voter wave of early 2018 would translate to lines at the polls on Election Day.
“Trump helped define the issues,” McLean said Wednesday afternoon.
In all, about 1.3 million of 2.1 million eligible voters cast ballots.
Jonathan Wharton, a political science professor at Southern Connecticut State University, said the energized voters in Connecticut’s suburbs — especially Fairfield County, where Democrats had several upsets in long-time Republican districts — played a large role in Stefanowski’s loss. He also cited turnout in New Haven and Hamden as playing a major role in the outcome of the governor’s race.
“Clearly there was an interest in New Haven of not supporting Trump, so that was definitely part of it,” Wharton said.
Gary L. Rose, chairman of the Department of Government, Politics and Global Studies at Sacred Heart University, believes that the turnout was a the result of several factors, including the high-profile fight for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
“The way in which the congressional elections were nationalized, I think, added a level of intensity and interest, even though Connecticut voters knew very well the incumbents would win,” Rose said. “The intensity of the gubernatorial contest certainly brought people to the polls. Everyone knew it was a close election. Their differences in tax policy brought many to the polls who might not have voted. And with President Trump, it was no longer a local race because it had national consequences.”
Plus, with the huge field of candidates and the contentious August primaries, state residents had a stake in who won. “The ads on TV that were absolutley omnipresent throughout the campaign, seemed to start serving as a mechanism to draw people,” Rose said. “The plethora of primaries facilitated more turnout in November, but you can’t narrow it down to one factor that brought out voters.”